The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The chair screeched as it slid across the floor. The local community hall smelt of must, old floor polish, and the much more enticing aroma of fresh pastries and coffee. The other seats had been arranged in a circle facing each other and all were currently filled. The late arrival pulled their chair into a gap the others made for them and, unfolding it, took a seat.
"Ah Odin, you old git. Didn't think you were going to make it this week."
The voice carried about the room with a slight echo given the height of the roof. The area also doubled as a sports hall for the local badminton and basketball teams. Dagda slouched at his comfort and waited to see if his old friend had a reply. Odin settled himself almost mirroring the other’s casual slouch, then cleared his throat.
"Well, I had planned on giving it a miss but honestly, things have gone to Hel recently. I thought I could do with some sympathetic company."
His one eyed gaze moved about the circle of seats giving and receiving nods from the other attendees.
“Well the first step is always admitting that we all a little need help from time to time.”
Odin raised his steaming mug in salute to the Dagda and received the same salute in return.
“Sorry to interrupt you Lugh, you were mid share weren’t you?”
The circle turned their attention back to the fair haired man where he sat. Lugh shifted his weight in the chair and took a moment to tug his shirt sleeves down from beneath his tailored suit jacket.
“Thanks. Well, as I was saying, he’s a monster.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little harsh?”
The voice was gentle but commanding as it shared an opinion.
“We all have errant children, Lugh, but do we not do them a disservice by using debasing language.”
Lugh turned his gaze to the hindu deity, a slight frown showing his frustration at a further interruption.
“I’m not speaking figuratively here Vayu. He has all of this rage in him. It physically distorts his form into something monstrous. It’s a wonder he survives it at all. I have no idea where he gets his anger from.”
“Really? No idea at all?”
This time it was the Dagda who chimed in, his words layered with humour. Lugh’s brow came down as his face coloured.
“You should talk, you lech! That son of yours seemed to follow your example rather closely in his affairs with other men’s wives.”
As the anger of the words shifted the energy of the air in the circle, the Dagda sat forward in his seat. His words when they came carried an intentional calm to them.
“An act that you killed him for as I recall.”
“A death he deserved, but one which didn’t exactly stick now did it? Maybe I shouldn’t consider the matter resolved.”
Lugh’s rebuttal caused the Dagda to straighten and a hard edge to come upon the moment.
“You don’t want to go there Lugh, now let’s drop it okay?”
A silence began to lengthen as the two deities locked their eyes across the circle. It didn't last long as a gravelly chuckle broke the moment.
“You pair are always the same, it’s a wonder Goibhniu hasn’t bashed open your heads for you.”
Hephaestus continued to chuckle as he turned his wheelchair away and went to retrieve a refill of his mug. The break in the circle allowed some of the frustration to spill and Dagda took a deep calming breath, returning to his slouch in the chair. Each of them took a moment for breath and to dissipate some energy. It’s not easy having so many of them in the one spot.
It’s why they agreed to hire out the community hall in the first place. None of them was fully sure of having this kind of gathering in their sitting room. Dagda was the next to speak again.
“Cermait was in the wrong and paid his price for that. There was fault to be laid at his feet and consequence is one of the best teachers right?”
This got a round of nods from the other fathers sitting once again in circle with the return of Hephaestus.
“I think it’s fair to say that all of our kids have trouble when it comes to respecting boundaries, but sure that’s why they have us right? That’s what fathers are for is it not? To show the best example we can, and share the lessons with them. Even if the lessons are those of our own mistakes.”
“Especially the mistakes I would say.”
The eyes of the circle moved to the speaker where he sat straight upright, body wrapped tight in bandages. Osiris gave a slow nod to acknowledge the attention.
“We are all of us a product of our time and our own journey. There is not one of us here who has not erred at one point or another.”
This was met with a round of nods and rueful expressions.
“It is the acceptance of that fact coupled with the lesson that allows us to grow beyond that moment and gain greater insight. To deny ourselves our mistakes is to deny ourselves the root from which wisdom is grown. So to is it the nature of our children to make mistakes. In facing the consequences they too are presented with an opportunity to grow in wisdom.”
This was met with more nods, raised mugs in salute, and a number of mumbled ‘well said’ and ‘here here’, comments. It was Lugh who spoke again next.
“That’s all well and good, but I don’t see how it helps me. He is all rage and ruin. How do I control that?”
The question hung in the circle, heavy with its plea. The reply, when it came, was unexpected.
Lugh turned to look at Odin in response to the quiet statement.
“What? What do you mean I don’t?”
Odin gave his gaze to Lugh but his words were for the gathering as a whole.
“Control is an illusion where our kids are concerned, even to ones such as us, possessed of great knowledge, wisdom, and skill. They are each of them wrought from or by us, but they are no longer part of us anymore. We cannot presume to wield them as we would our own arm.”
He stopped speaking a moment to take a sip from his mug before continuing.
“Take my boy Thor. So hot headed I swear I’m just waiting for the day that red mop of his bursts into flame. There is no controlling that, it’s his nature. We just have to find a way to steer the best course we can and bring them on with us along the way.”
Lugh shook his head, obviously not satisfied with this answer.
“So I’m supposed to do nothing and just let him run amok? I can’t just not care about him. Besides there are much worse things out there than the boy. No matter how skilled he believes himself to be. He barely got away with dealing with the Morrigan. He was lucky she was in such a sporting mood to give him so many chances to figure himself out. There would have been nothing I could’ve done about it had she taken agin him.”
Many heads nodded about the circle at the mention of the Morrigan. Even here She had a presence greater than her size. The Dagda just smiled to see so many other Gods showing due respect to his mate. It was he who answered.
“No one’s saying you should abandon him Lugh. Not a one of us would truly leave our own to harm we could prevent. Those that would, maybe fathers but they don’t know what it means to be a dad. What Grimnir is getting at is more about managing yourself and your own state so that the lad can follow the best example he can see.”
Odin gave a nod and a mug salute at this and Dagda continued.
“There is no control without denying them a freedom that is theirs by right of birth. All we can do is manage ourselves and trust in them as they grow.”
Lugh opened his mouth to reply but the Dagda raised a hand to head off further disagreement.
“I said trust. That doesn’t remove worry, doubt, and fear for them. Trust is the best weapon we have for combating that. They could get hurt getting out of bed in the morning, let alone out in the world. If we are there every second of every day, taking their challenges for them then we again deny them their freedom, but we are also stealing their opportunities to learn from experience. What’s worse is that we are showing them that we don’t trust in their ability to look after themselves.”
Lugh sat back in his chair, his quick mind picking up on the information he had been presented with. After a moment he let out a heavy sigh.
“This stuff isn’t easy is it.”
A chorus of chuckles rumbled its way around the circle. A polite cough brought all eyes around to a mild unassuming figure.
“It could be worse. I had to take mine away from his mother once the teen years hit. All of those human hormones and the like. He was thirty three before he was fit to be around people again. Then the small minded fools went and killed him for calling them on their bullshit. There is still a load of crap done in our name that had nothing to do with his message.”
Odin gave a chuckle and a shake of his head.
“You think that's bad? I have an adopted son who keeps trying to take over the world and bring about Ragnarok. Seriously, I have a giant wolf for an adopted grandchild who is set to swallow the world if ever he breaks the chains we had to put on him.”
The chuckles returned as each tried to best the other with tales of how awful their children were, but only Vayu had no bad word to say.
“My Hanuman is a delight and there is not a bad thing to be said about him.”
The hindu deity took a sip of his mug, a smile creeping onto his feature before he continued.
“Though to be fair, I don’t think any of us here would be able to manage his level of celibacy.”
The chuckles became outright laughs the noise of which began to bounce back at them, echoed from the roof. At that moment the door to the hall squeeked open as the elderly Caretaker popped their head in.
“Shhh….enough of this rowdiness or I’ll cut you short.”
The Caretaker looked at each of the gods over the top of their glasses, which hung precariously on the end of their hooked nose as the laughter settled back to chuckles.
“Apologies old timer, we did not mean to disturb you.”
Zeus' voice was loudly resonant as always. In the newly arrived quiet it landed heavily earning him a particular glower for his efforts.
“Well mind your noise and you had better clean up your mess before you leave or so help me I will be after each and everyone of you.”
The Caretaker gave a satisfied nod and with one last harumph they allowed the door to swing closed on the hall again.
“You don’t think they would actually come after us do you?”
Zeus’ tone was hushed as he cast a glance towards the closed door.
“They will forever be after us for not even we can escape their steady stride.” replied Odin.
“I don’t know, their companionship is not too bad and there are ways to stay on their good side.” ; commented Osiris.
“Well you would know I guess.” said the Dagda. “Anyway, Your turn to share Grimnir me ol’fella. What’s gone all to Hel now?”
Odin gave a himself a moment to sip his coffee and then took a resigned breath.
“We are all facing a lot of noise on the channels as the people try survive in this current time of challenge. Its nothing we haven’t faced before when we look at the history of prayer and how it aligns with global issues.”
Again a round of nods from the circle at this.
“Thing is, I have a lot more folk sending their prayers to us than we have had in a long while. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the work and taking some back from the other religions. I have even heard word that open public ritual is happening more in the ancient home lands and this is doing great things for the outreach programs.”
Odin’s words came to a stop as his gaze fell to the swirling mug in his hands.
“There is a 'but' here my one eyed friend. How is this affecting Hel?”
The Dagda’s voice was gentle but probing.
“Well to put it plainly, she is getting inundated with racists. I mean the worst kind of nazi all thinking they are entitled to a place in valhalla because of some fictitious belief in the colour of their skin. Needless to say she is facing a large volume in complaints. We are managing the workload as best we can but the additional pressure really doesn’t help the working relationship much.”
A round of sympathetic murmurs made its way through the circle. Nyame leaned over and placed a reassuring hand on Odin’s shoulder.
“I sympathise with your plight my friend. There has been much harm done in the world over something as ridiculous as the amount of sun exposure the first peoples were exposed to. If you will permit me a certain indulgence though, I’m glad that Hel is busy and that there are less of them among the tribes to spread their hate."
The soft sounds of his African accent adding a gentle tone to the his words.
"I generally prefer to not get involved in their squabbles but I have no doubt that Anansi would love to assist your granddaughter in her work. Should you wish to allow him to of course.”
Odin blinked and a sly smile made its way across his craggy features.
“It’s not often we hear your voice when we gather, but as always you make some of the best comments when you do. I can just see the shock of them now. Meeting Anansi then having to deal with Hel. Maybe that alone will be enough to raise her mood.”
Nyame gave a nod as Odin’s shoulders relaxed.
“I will see to it my friend. Maybe together they can settle these issues for you. Or at the very least they can keep each other entertained and out of our hair, no?”
The round of chuckles was kept to a somewhat subdued volume, but every eye moved to the door in surprise as it squeeked open again, admitting the Caretaker.
“That’s it. Enough of your noise and bother. Pack up. Get out.”
The Dagda looked at the clock on the wall.
“Ah here ol’timer, we have a good half hour left, and we weren’t even that loud this time.”
The Caretaker fixed the big man with a glower over the rim of their glasses.
“I know the hour very well young man, but someone’s six legged steed has gotten into my garden and trampled my herbs. I am out of thyme and so now are you.”
The eyes of the group all rolled around to the very embarrassed face of Odin.
“Sorry lads. My Bad. Looks like I have troubles with more than one grandchild right now.”
The group shared a groan as each rose, folded their chair and began the tidy up.
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An Scéalaí Beag